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After the last of four “Town Meetings” to capture the public’s opinion, Chicago’s Department of Culture and Special Events has retreated behind closed doors to finalize their ambitious Cultural Plan. The draft of this plan, the city’s first since 1985, is hugely comprehensive, supporting initiatives such as arts integrated curriculum’s in each of Chicago’s 675 public schools, the bequeathing of derelict buildings and spaces around the city to artists, and a new arts and culture tax for all Chicagoans, just to name a few.
Critics of the plan are hoping that the final draft will show a far more whittled down and decisive plan of action. As it stands now, the Plan is an un-prioritized list of long term ambitions that many fear the city does not have the capital to fund. At the same time, many are approving of Chicago’s move to becoming a global center for culture as Chicago has many world class institutions but no cohesive brand to show the rest of the world exactly who they are. If done well, this plan could market the vast and astounding amount of artistic talent that is already in-house and make Chicago as synonymous with culture as New York or Paris, a move that would undoubtedly increase tourism and revenue into the city.
This is an important moment in Chicago’s history. With over 25 years between the last cultural plan and this current draft, the city has a chance to reevaluate who they are and how they want to be seen by the world. They could also potentially be a model for other American cities, particularly in the field of arts-integrated education, an idea which has been backed by Rocco Landesman, the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts who says he would like to see this plan implemented in “hundreds of cities around the United States.”
Now that the plan has been debuted and the opinion of the public has been taken into account (although there was disappointingly low attendance at the town meetings held to discuss the plan) the Department of Culture and Special Events has perhaps the hardest task of all, getting down to the nuts and bolts of the plan, deciding which items are important, which are feasible and creating a timeline and accompanying financial plan. The city, and the cultural world at large, waits to see just who Chicago plans to be.
Photo by: City of Chicago